Wondering why The Force Awakens VFX look so good? A superb amount of work went into crafting the look and feel of The Force Awakens VFX. That’s one reason why it looks so much like the original three Star Wars films. There isn’t any denying that this feels like it directly follows the late 70s and early 80s George Lucas originals. At the same time, it carefully brings things into the current era by adding today’s computer graphics alongside practical effects. The almost 100 percent green screen look hated so much by fans who saw the prequels are nearly absent this time around. They are only used when needed, or to augment the practical VFX.
The focus on bringing back George Lucas’s pioneering innovation in VFX magic was the prime element giving The Force Awakens its unique throwback look. But that’s in addition to having the original actors appear. Besides J.J. Abrams’ vision, this movie looks good because of practical effects team leads Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould. These two VFX veterans worked hard and lost sleep to bring back the kind of Star Wars movie that has been absent from movie theaters for over 30 years. The success of The Force Awakens is proving the wisdom of this approach.
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When describing their initial approach to the visual design of The Force Awakens, Neal Scanlan told DP/30: The Oral History Of Hollywood the direction he took with the team he supervised.
“There was a world that was created by George Lucas, and a very special world that was created by George. You need to put your artistic egos aside, mine included, mine more than anybody’s, and to try and find out what makes this world so special, what are the things that make Star Wars Star Wars, and to open our eyes to that and to identify them.”
Among the huge explosions and blaster VFX, a standout practical effect was the inflatable bread, which Rey cooks up in the film by sprinkling powder in water. As The Independent reports, the illusion was created by Corbould by placing a bread-like object, which inflated as the water was sucked out beneath it. Though the effect is brilliant, the food itself looks like low class dining for Rey’s low cash circumstances rather than a culinary delight fit for a talented young warrior with Jedi underpinnings. But to create such an effect and even fool your supervisor into thinking it was created with computer graphics is the mark of Corbould’s Jedi genius.
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Another magnificent recreation was the costume for the actor who played Chewbacca. It had to be recreated by hand, just like the original costume. The costumes from the original films weren’t in such great condition, so Corbould and Scanlan researched how to give actor Peter Mayhew the look he sported over 30 years ago. They realized how much the costume was created for Mayhew’s particular proportions and dimensions. It’s not only that the costume needed to fit over Mayhew’s over 7-foot frame, the face portion needed to align with his wide jaw and blistering blue eyes.
Scanlan gave a lot of credit to original Chewbacca costume creator, Stuart Freeborn, in that same interview with DP/30: The Oral History Of Hollywood.
“We built our version of Chewbacca, and it was appalling by comparison, and we just threw it in the bin, and said, let’s go back and study what Stuart had done. It was like an archaeological dig almost.”
The Force Awakens is only the beginning for the Star Wars work of this awesome team, already nominated for an Oscar for their work. Rogue One and Episode VIII will be the next great outlets for their Star Wars work after The Force Awakens and its VFX leave theaters, but they will be under the supervision of different directors.
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[Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images]